What a Fantastic Morning! Walking, Yoga, Local Businesses, Delicious Foods

What a Fantastic Morning! Walking, Yoga, Local Businesses, Delicious Foods

I woke at 5:30am and before 9 am, I had walked two miles, attended two yoga classes, and patronized four local businesses!

It’s getting better.

I started the day by walking to Yoga Hive, a new yoga studio recently opened by Kimberly Musial. Since they just opened, they have a special rate and you can try it out for $10 for two weeks. Just ten dollars — for unlimited classes!

This photo is not me. Taken by flickr user Shunpikie

So after a lovely first sweaty class, I stayed for the “Guided Meditation” which was so soothing and effective at quieting my constantly rushing mind that I think I may have fallen asleep. It was an incredibly restful feeling and left me feeling like I didn’t have a care in the world. I was even able to block out the car sounds outside on Penn Ave — a feat that is nearly impossible for me.

After yoga, I grabbed the newspaper from a convenience store, a cup of coffee from Voluto to sip while reading the Post-Gazette. My stroll home was lovely, too, and I stopped at People’s Grocery for an onion to assemble my future magnificent breakfast.

The Breakfast Brigade: Bagels, Mushrooms, Habaneros, Oh My!

I have a swell breakfast routine and it involves listening to NPR while whipping up a fairly elaborate bagel based meal and then reading the newspaper while eating.

Here’s my incredibly addictive breakfast:

  • An everything bagel (or two), sliced, toasted.
  • Cream cheese (onion and chives!)
  • Sliced onion
  • Thin slices of apple
  • A delicious cheese (I usually use Havarti with Dill or some cheddar)
  • Habanero (if you like it, I can’t have a meal without one)
  • Cilantro (if you like it, if you’ve got it, I love it)
  • Sauteed mushroom (these last two if you want to get really fancy, I do)
  • Sauteed spinach

After you’ve toasted the bagel, cover it with cream cheese.

Slice the apple paper thin and place 2-3 slices all over the bottom half of the bagel. This will cover the hole of the bagel and allow you to cover it with even more food.

Just a small part of my habanero stash that I saved for my move from DC to Pittsburgh last year

Throw some onion on top of that for crunch and flavor.

Add mushrooms and spinach.

Cover all of the food with thin slices of your extra cheese to melt. Put the bagel back in the toaster oven or broiler and melt the cheese.

Add cilantro and minced habanero to the top and then cover with the other half of the bagel.

Slice in half and savor the massive six inch high bagel. I wish I had a picture to show you but I get so excited about my bagel that I eat too fast!

Now I’m walking to work because sometimes I like to move even more slowly than my bicycle.

Have a great day!

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The United States is Now Criss-Crossed by Nearly Four Million Miles of Roadways

The United States is Now Criss-Crossed by Nearly Four Million Miles of Roadways

And what we need more trees, less highways.

Photo by flickr user shawnconna

I found this article the other day when browsing the site of the very excellent organization Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest and thought it was worth sharing. Notice especially the part in italics:

Why Shade Trees? The Unexpected Benefit

Davis, CA (November 1, 2007)- We would all prefer to walk down a tree-lined street to one without trees, but did you know that the street itself prefers to run under trees? This report examines the cost-saving benefits of having shaded streets. All other factors equal, the condition of pavement on tree-shaded streets is better than on unshaded streets. In fact, shaded roads require significantly less maintenance and can save up to 60% of repaving costs over 30 years.

After more than 100 years of road and highway building, the United States is now criss-crossed by nearly four million miles of roadways. Add in all the parking lots, private roads, driveways, and road shoulders, and the total amount of paved land comes to approximately one percent of the total area of the contiguous United States. The cost of maintaining this asphalt can be lowered through urban tree planting.

Photo by flickr user scratch n sniff

Asphalt streets are a combination of filler materials, known as aggregate, and a binder- asphalt cement- on top of one or more layers of gravel and compacted soil. As pavement temperatures rise, the binder evaporates and breaks down and the pavement begins to harden, making it easier for cracks to form. Tree planting along roads provides shade, thereby improving pavement conditions. According to research conducted by this study, 20% shade on a street improves pavement condition by 11%, which is a 60% savings for resurfacing over 30 years. Read Tips for Street Shading Trees

Three Easy Things You Can Do

1. Learn to identify the trees in your neighborhood

2. Become a tree tender at your local urban forestry or tree organization

3. Write to your local legislators to voice support to fund tree planting programs

Which Way to Go? Planning Walking and Biking Routes

Which Way to Go? Planning Walking and Biking Routes

What is important to you when you plan a bicycle or walking route?

For me it’s easy:

I just prefer

1. Shady trails or tree-lined streets

2. Car-free or car-light

I like to reduce my potential for interacting with automobiles.

Two of my bicycle riding co-workers were recently surprised when I said that a shady route was one of my main considerations — they’d never thought of it; and I was surprised they never noticed. There is a massive Pleasure Differential between riding under a tree-lined street or path and riding under the relentless sun.

What would make you walk or ride your bicycle more?

Nine Years as a Car-free Lady!

Nine Years as a Car-free Lady!

Today is my nine year anniversary of living without a car!

When I graduated from college, I just didn’t want to spend my money on a car. I wanted to buy new shoes and eat at a million new restaurants! So I moved to Chicago where I could take the bus or train anywhere I wanted day or night, close to my house.

And when I left Chicago, I moved to Washington, DC. I lived in five different neighborhoods: H Street NE, Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, and Brookland.

While I was never more than a few steps away from a bus or train, I could walk to plenty of places as well. Numerous grocery stores, farmers markets, ethnic markets, restaurants, bars, parks were easily walkable for many parts of DC. (And many that have far fewer resources of course).

Owning a car seemed like a waste of money and time. Most of the people I saw in cars were sitting in traffic. Not many looked like they were enjoying themselves.

And they were paying money do to it.

I took the bus and train in DC for several years before I decided to save some dollars, make my own schedule and start riding a bicycle.

I had no idea how much I would love it!

After a few months I found a bicycle that I could afford, I liked, and that fit me. I’m kind of short!

Me and a sunflower I grew at my house in DC last year.

(PS: I didn’t  have a camera for several years so I am lacking in some photographic evidence, but if you’d like to see some more pictures of my garden, go here!)

I would have started riding a bike all the time, every day and night, had I known how much more free I felt!

I bought my first bike for $300 after years of not really riding and within the first week I rode 80 miles. I’ve never raced or competed or considered it. I use my bicycle to get around and I spend almost no money on transportation, PLUS I get in shape!

Everyone does push-ups at their going away party, right?

And though this might be a bit late…

If you’ve ever considered biking for transportation, tomorrow is a great day to start.

It’s National Bike to Work Day! Events, group rides, and free food are happening all over the country. Check your local bike advocacy organization for information!

Pittsburgh’s Bike to Work Day coincides with the first of a series of Carfree Fridays happening around the city for the summer.

Please Stop Parking on the Sidewalk

Please Stop Parking on the Sidewalk

I was surprised when I moved to Pittsburgh to find that parking on the sidewalk seems to be somewhat common and tacitly accepted.

 

Truck on Penn Ave sidewalk in Lawrenceville

Someone explained to me that the streets were built before large trucks became prominent so there is not enough space on the road for drivers to drive and drivers to park, so the move onto the sidewalk began.

But where are pedestrians supposed to go?

Walking up to this giant truck in Lawrenceville there was no option but to step into the traffic on Penn Ave. I can hop around it, but I shouldn’t have to.

What about parents with a stroller? A grandmother in a wheelchair? A man using a cane? There are no options except walking directly into the path of traffic.

Anyone walking by is forced to walk into the busy street to get around this truck

This is a truck parked on the sidewalk in the Strip District:

Large truck blocking the sidewalk in the Strip District

When I asked someone else about it they responded it wasn’t a problem on this particular street because “No one really walks there anyway”.

No kidding! Why would anyone WANT to walk somewhere if you were going to be dodging cars and trucks when crossing the street and trying to escape them on the sidewalk too?

For more delightful images of “Space hogs” around the world, check out the Streetsblog photo contest from last year.

And if you drive, please think about your neighbors before you decide to park on the sidewalk.

Help Flood Victims in Nashville

Help Flood Victims in Nashville

Hello!

With all the excitement and rage about BP’s reckless management of offshore drilling, the massive flooding of Nashville has lost opportunities for press coverage and sympathy. If you have some extra money lying around and want to donate to restoration efforts in the land of country music, the Community Foundation is a non-profit organization that is accepting donations of any size.

In partnership with Davidson County’s Office of Emergency Management, The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee has activated its Metro Nashville Disaster Response Fund to help to those affected by the May 1, 2010 floods. Donations of any size are welcome. Grants from the fund will support relief and restoration in the Davidson County area.

Photo by Southern Tabitha, Flickr

Nashville is the city where I was born, where my parents bought their first house, where I learned how to walk, and talk, and ride a bike. It’s the home of my grandma who gave me my name and tons of vintage clothes, as well as the home of numerous aunts, uncles, dozens of cousins, and relatives that I haven’t even met yet.

Flooding in Nashville, Photo by Southern Tabitha, Flickr

Nashville is my first city. I was born there and lived right by Vanderbilt University until I was seven, and I even went on my first upside down roller coaster there. I started my life walking everywhere: to school, to the grocery store, to friends’ houses, to the park down the street. Nashville is the fantastic city that I no longer know but that spoiled me for the next ten years that I spent living in the suburbs of Washington, DC. (Sorry parents, but blech! What a wretched departure!)

Yield to Pedestrians

So if you have a little disposable income and want to help out some people who are drowning in dirty water, please pass some dollars along to the Community Foundation or another reputable non-profit.

For a little swoon from my childhood, here is the Dragon Park down the street from my semi-ancestral home:

The Dragon Park, photo by Brent, flickr

For more pictures of this incredible park, check out this blog on Mosaic Art.

Can’t Get There From Here: The Woeful Tale of a Stranded Pedestrian

Can’t Get There From Here: The Woeful Tale of a Stranded Pedestrian

This is the soundtrack for my exploration stroll the other day around my neighborhood. Unless you loathe R.E.M., it is a good accompaniment to reading this post.

Several times in the past I have celebrated my neighborhood and home on the North Side of Pittsburgh. But I have to tell you that I exaggerated a little and omitted much.

There are many beautiful areas of the North Side and much of it is quaint, wonderful, and convenient. But I have to confess: I live on the OTHER North Side, the part that was cut in half by a neighborhood dividing highway.

The parts that contain all the amenities like the National Aviary, the Andy Warhol Museum, coffee shops, grocery stores, and parks are all on the other side of this highway:

That is the scene I have to ride or walk across when heading to other, more lovelier parts of the North Side.

And if I want to go downtown or shopping in the Strip District, I find myself facing signs like this:

No Pedestrian Signs are More Common Than Crosswalks

Riding bikes is not much of a problem as you’re on the road, but if you are trying to get around by foot, as are children and many elderly who do not own cars, it is a death-trap. A place filled with crumbling gravelly sidewalks that are dangerous for nearly everyone except the most fit.

What if I depended on a wheelchair to get around? I’d never make it in this neighborhood.

Getting to the bus stop is quite perilous and I waited through three lights at one intersection waiting for a pedestrian signal. Over 50 cars drove by in three light switches and not one stopped to let me cross,  so I finally had to just make a run for it.

To cross to this intersection:

If you look really closely there used to be a crosswalk

Then the friendly pedestrian must run across another faded crosswalk, but this time there is a light for the walker!

Crossing East Ohio

Seems like that should be hazardous enough, right? But if I want to get my groceries from the Strip, I still have to get to the 16th Street Bridge and walk past the highway exit where this sizable vehicle powered up to the sidewalk where I was standing:

Intimidatingly Large Truck

And though I wasn’t trying to walk onto the highway, seeing this sign just reinforced how my walk felt:

Pedestrians Prohibited

By this point I’d walked less than half a mile but it took me nearly 20 minutes with all the waiting and trying not to die.

I’m fairly young and in shape, I ride a bike and move around all the time and this area is really difficult for me to navigate. Imagine how dangerous these streets are for people who are older, maybe less fit and less able to make a run for it across the street.

This area is incredibly unfriendly to pedestrians and many people do not have the luxury of investing a substantial amount of their income on a vehicle.

We need, very soon:

  • Crosswalks to be repainted
  • Pedestrian crossing signals at all intersections

Can you think of any other easy-to-implement solutions that could make this area safer for everyone?

Kid on Bike Violence Demands Community Solutions

Kid on Bike Violence Demands Community Solutions

There always seems to be a story about this, some bored kids with nowhere to go and nothing to do decide to entertain themselves by tormenting an anonymous person on a bike, or on foot, or in cars.

There was a rash of brick throwers in DC a couple of years back, and this past weekend some more kids throwing bricks on the South Side of Pittsburgh. The biker was hit and suffered a massive gash to his head, but luckily was not killed. (Interestingly, the Post-Gazette said that the bicycle rider “drove under a trestle”)

Last year while riding my bike on the highway-esque Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast DC, a gaggle of kids pelted me with hot water balloons, knocking me off my bike into the lane of fast-moving traffic. Luckily (again), the driver in the lane wasn’t texting and reacted quickly enough to swerve and avoided hitting me.

I called the police, somewhat reluctantly and they answered the call even more reluctantly. The car-bound officers shrugged, saying that there was nothing they could do. The kids had all scattered and I wasn’t really hurt, after all, was I?

Warm weather seems to infuse bored children with the passion to fling heavy objects at cyclists or pedestrians or cars.

I wish I had some better ideas to share, but all I have are questions and frustration.

Are there any solutions?

  1. Better engagement for kids? Video games, television, and the news perpetuate the concept of violence as a culturally appropriate response to conflict resolution as well as presenting it as entertaining.
  2. Better police response? I don’t think this is the right one. The U.S. has the world’s highest incarceration rate, according to a study by the King’s College of London at 756 per 100,000 and has 23.4% of the world prison population. “Correctional facilities” seem to “correct” little except the number of people that are part of their communities and raising their families.
  3. More community and parental involvement? Nice sounding but how to actually implement this? Even families with two parent incomes are being continuously squeezed in this economy leaving many kids alone to entertain and raise themselves.
  4. Education? (“Rocks hurt!”? Nope.)
  5. More places for kids to play? I grew up playing kickball on my street nearly every day but many streets are too dangerous for kids and many drivers are too reckless, eliminating huge swaths of cities as potential grounds for play.

Any ideas?

Parking in San Francisco, Planning in DC, Walking Everywhere

Parking in San Francisco, Planning in DC, Walking Everywhere

There has been quite a bit of buzz over San Francisco’s parking census and future smart parking plan. I wrote about it here (“Golden Gate Parking Lot: San Francisco Conducts First Ever Parking Census“) a few weeks ago concluding that it’s great to know how much parking is available but the goal and the outcome of making parking easier is misguided and short-sighted.

The other day I wrote about it in greater detail for my column in Next American City. It’s generated an interesting discussion with a little bit of frantic windshield panic thrown in from a resident in DC who seems to think that pro-people measures that make streets safer for pedestrians and bikers are “anti-car” and anti-poor.

I’m not anti-car, but I am against the financial, social, and environmental burden they place on individuals, cities, and the world.

Freeway Jail

I’m for people, not for modes of transportation. I want to make our cities healthier, safer, cleaner, more efficient, and more affordable for all.

I want to create better cities for the person who travels by foot and so becomes a “pedestrian”.

I want to create better cities for the person who travels by bicycle, not for their bicycle.

I want to create better cities for the person who travels by public transportation, not for their bus or train.

And lastly, I want to create better cities for the person who drives a car, not for their car.

I want to make better places for all of these people, not their mode of transportation.  Moving people by foot, bike, and public transportation are the most efficient ways to provide mobility for all in terms of space and cost as well as causing far less pollution and sprawl than creating a world where each person drives an individual car.

That is why I support infrastructure that makes walking safe for everyone from the very young to the very old, infrastructure that makes biking safe for the very young and the very old, and accessible and affordable public transportation for all.

Mobility is a human right, free parking is not.

Bikes and Walking Equal to Cars, Says US DOT

Bikes and Walking Equal to Cars, Says US DOT

Someone get this girl an old-fashioned hand-held fan! I am about to faint! I am so excited this morning that I can’t tell if it’s all the coffee I’ve had or if I’m just giddy that the highest official for transportation in the U.S. sounds like he is talking out of my mouth.

According to my favorite Republican, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, “This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.”

Here are some of my favorite selections from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s new policy position: (italics for my additions)

Reasons for Investment and Policy Change

Walking and bicycling foster safer, more livable, family-friendly communities; promote physical activity and health; and reduce vehicle emissions and fuel use.

The establishment of well-connected walking and bicycling networks is an important component for livable communities, and their design should be a part of Federal-aid project developments.

Because of the numerous individual and community benefits that walking and bicycling provide — including health, safety, environmental, transportation, and quality of life — transportation agencies are encouraged to go beyond minimum standards to provide safe and convenient facilities for these modes.

Transportation for All (Ages)

Transportation programs and facilities should accommodate people of all ages and abilities, including people too young to drive, people who cannot drive, and people who choose not to drive.

[It is important to ensure] that there are transportation choices for people of all ages and abilities, especially children: Pedestrian and bicycle facilities should meet accessibility requirements and provide safe, convenient, and interconnected transportation networks. For example, children should have safe and convenient options for walking or bicycling to school and parks. People who cannot or prefer not to drive should have safe and efficient transportation choices.

Every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation systems.

Action Recommendations

Transportation agencies and local communities should go beyond minimum design standards and requirements to create safe, attractive, sustainable, accessible, and convenient bicycling and walking networks. Such actions should include:

  • Considering walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes (swoon swoon swoon! Yes! Finally!): The primary goal of a transportation system is to safely and efficiently move people and goods. Walking and bicycling are efficient transportation modes for most short trips and, where convenient intermodal systems exist, these nonmotorized trips can easily be linked with transit to significantly increase trip distance. Because of the benefits they provide, transportation agencies should give the same priority to walking and bicycling as is given to other transportation modes. Walking and bicycling should not be an afterthought in roadway design. (Yay!)
  • Prepare for increase in biking and pedestrian use NOW: Shared-use paths that have been designed to minimum width requirements will need retrofits as more people use them. It is more effective to plan for increased usage than to retrofit an older facility. Planning projects for the long-term should anticipate likely future demand for bicycling and walking facilities and not preclude the provision of future improvements.
  • Integrating bicycle and pedestrian accommodation on new, rehabilitated, and limited-access bridges: DOT encourages bicycle and pedestrian accommodation on bridge projects including facilities on limited-access bridges with connections to streets or paths.
  • Improving nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects: Transportation agencies should find ways to make facility improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists during resurfacing and other maintenance projects.

Projected Benefits of Investing in Bike and Pedestrian Infrastructure

Increased commitment to and investment in bicycle facilities and walking networks can help meet goals for cleaner, healthier air; less congested roadways; and more livable, safe, cost-efficient communities.

Walking and bicycling provide low-cost mobility options that place fewer demands on local roads and highways. DOT recognizes that safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities may look different depending on the context — appropriate facilities in a rural community may be different from a dense, urban area. However, regardless of regional, climate, and population density differences, it is important that pedestrian and bicycle facilities be integrated into transportation systems. While DOT leads the effort to provide safe and convenient accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists, success will ultimately depend on transportation agencies across the country embracing and implementing this policy.